86-year-old, who took up running after heart attack 16 years ago, has not looked back since
If you were an older person who suffered a heart attack, the odds are you would take things a little easy. When Mr Kor Hong Fatt suffered a heart attack at the age of 70, in 2002, he became a serious runner.
Not only that, but the retired quantity surveyor also was not going to let the health scare stop him from setting the goal of running a marathon.
But it was not just for his own sake that he wanted to become fighting fit. He also wanted to be healthy to continue caring for his wife, who suffered a stroke in 1994 and had to use a wheelchair.
His wife died in 2015, but he is still running at the age of 86.
Hard Kor, as he is known to fellow runners of the Singapore Masters Track and Field Association, already has 22 marathons under his belt. His proudest achievement was to qualify for and complete the Boston Marathon in 2011, making him the oldest finisher from Singapore, at 79 years old.
He is also a two-time gold medallist in the 10,000m race at the Asia Masters Athletics Championships, which is held every two years and open to participants aged 35 and above. He won in the age 80 to 84 category in the 2012 championships in Taipei, when he was 80; and in the age 85 to 89 category in China last year, when he was 85. He aims to win his third gold, in the age 90 to 94 category, and is quite confident that "no other Singaporean will be able to break this record".
And he is not done, even though his running endeavours had to be put on hold more than a year ago when he fell off a bicycle and injured his spine. He was out of action for three months and, while a strict daily routine of rehabilitation exercises allowed him to return to running, he has not attempted a marathon since then.
He has also stopped cycling, on the advice of his family, and is continuing with rehabilitation exercises daily to maintain his sense of balance and strengthen his spine.
Although he is not back to peak running form, he keeps fit by running between 5km and 9km on alternate days instead of the six-day-a-week training he used to put himself through.
He is planning his comeback at a pace that suits his age and will run at least a half-marathon before returning to the full 42km.
The grandfather of five has set his sights on running the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon at the end of this year - which would be his ninth. He hopes his 54-year-old son and three grandsons can join him this time, making it a three-generation affair.
Mr Jason Wong, 51, a hurdler in the Singapore Masters Athletics team, said he is inspired by Hard Kor. "Mr Kor is very independent despite his age... He always completes the workouts given to him by our team coach and I am inspired by him to compete in hurdles as long as I can," he said.
Besides running, Mr Kor enjoys day trips to Johor Baru, taking a bus to malls across the Causeway to shop and eat. Even though he has been keeping to a healthy diet after his heart attack, he indulges in his favourite char kway teow, fried carrot cake, laksa and a couple of beers when he goes on his solo jaunts to JB. "I must enjoy my makan. Otherwise, life is meaningless," he said.
Just like the hawker food he loves, running is always on the menu. "Running is part of my life; it is like a meal that I must have," he said.
He believes in giving everything when he trains and expects improvement over time. "There must always be improvement, in timing or distance, and we should not be stagnant," he said.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.